R.A.I.N: A Four-Step Process For Using Mindfulness In Difficult Times

A couple of years ago, I discovered a 4-step mindfulness process that offers ‘in-the-trenches’ support for working with intense and difficult emotions. It has been an ally for me in the moments I needed mindfulness the most.

It’s called RAIN (which is an acronym for the 4 steps of the process).

Here are the 4 steps in brief…

1. R   Recognize what is happening

2. A   Allow life to be just as it is

3. I   Investigate inner experience

4. N   Non-Identification

Here’s how you can use the RAIN method in a difficult time…

R: The “R” in the R.A.I.N method stands for ‘Recognize.’

Take a moment to recognize that a strong emotion is present and gently turn towards what you’re experiencing in an open and non-judgemental way.

Tune in to the direct present moment experience of what is happening in your body and mind… the emotions, the thoughts and sensations that are here.

It can be helpful to mentally name it, for example, “I am feeling stressed” or “I am feeling overwhelmed.” This recognition of what your feeling, opens up inner space and brings you into full contact with yourself and the actuality of the present moment.

A: The “A” in R.A.I.N stands for ‘Allow.’

Allowing means to ‘let it be as it is.’ It is the acknowledgement and acceptance of your present moment reality. Allowing doesn’t mean we have to like the situation. It means we aims to soften (or drop) our mental resistance to what is happening.

The reason this is so important is because we often have the unconscious impulse to push away, suppress or ignore difficult emotions. When we engage in an inner struggle in these ways, we unknowingly create more suffering  and tension.

In this unconscious struggle we also tend to get ‘caught up’ in our thoughts and emotions, therefore we are more likely to react rather than being able to choose a conscious response.

By allowing, we’re able to bring an inner ‘yes’ to our present moment experience. You may notice almost immediately a sense of softening and ease around the emotion.

I: The “I” in the R.A.I.N. exercise stands for ‘Investigate.’

Now that you have recognized and allowed this emotion you can choose to investigate it. You may not always feel you need the “I” step as sometimes just the recognition and acceptance is enough. At other times you may feel naturally drawn to using this step.

So to investigate, you can mentally enquire with questions like “Why do I feel the way I do?” “Are there events that happened ahead of the emotion that might have influenced it?” “Are there physiological factors (Such as not getting enough sleep) that are affecting the emotion?” “What do I really need right now?” “Are there actions I could take to nurture and support myself (and/or others) in this difficult time?”

These questions can help us come into wiser relationship with emotions and thoughts. With this process of investigation we can also choose a conscious response to foster a more meaningful life. Investigation may even resolve and dissolve the emotion completely at times (although it is not the goal).

N: The “N” stands for ‘Non-identification.’

In the “N” step of R.A.I.N, you turn your attention to the simple realization that YOU are not your mind nor are you your emotions. You are the awareness that is always there underneath every thought, emotion and sense perception.

Non-identification means that your sense of who you are is not fused with or defined by your thoughts and emotions. This brings about a natural sense of freedom and ease. It gives a sense of having peace in the middle of it all. No matter how intense and painful the emotional storm, there is always a part of you which is still, silent and untouched.

You can use this R.A.I.N. method anytime you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or out of touch. It’s a powerful way of homecoming in a challenging time.

What are your thoughts on the R.A.I.N. method? Did you try it out and have some feedback or experiences to share? Let me know about it in the comments section below.

If you’d like to read more about R.A.I.N, I recommend reading the works of Tara Brach and particularly her book, True Refuge: Finding Peace & Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

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  1. WOW. A wonderful method to deal with negative emotions… I feel like this website is a real gold mine, everything is clear and beautifully explained, simplified… Mindfulness is a way of life that I am extremely grateful to discover. Thanks for every post, it makes my life better.

  2. Jennifer B says:

    Loved this post and spoke directly to what I was looking for today. Just learned of your blog through the Mindfulness Summit. Thank you, looking forward to poking around!

  3. I really love this post, thank you!

    I’m wondering if there are any books you can recommend on learning to accept the negative emotions? I am restarting my mindfulness practice, and foresee that this will be the most difficult part for me

    • Oh I have so many favourites but i think you might particularly enjoy ‘Full catastrophe living’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn and ‘When things fall apart’ By Pema Chodran. Also i think the work of Paul Gilbert is wonderful to read – get your hands on ‘Mindful Compassion’ because he offers an incredible wealth of information on how to cultivate a more kind and compassionate inner world. Self compassion is a powerful ally in being with those difficult emotions. Wishing you well : )

  4. Thank you so much for your incredible initiative organizing the Mindfulness Summit. I am moved and enriched by it. I found your interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn to be heartfelt, authentic and genuine – it moved me deeply.

    I like the R.A.I. N. method very much, and I especially agree with your comment around self-compassion and how important it is. Melli, with Jon Kabat-Zinn you talked about “dropping down” instead of away, and this created a major shift for me – the expression “dropping down” had a powerful effect. What I’ve learned for myself is that having self-compassion when we’re in those darkest moments, parenting ourselves like we’d parent someone we loved, is the most direct route to healing. This coupled with a practice of mindfulness as you outline in R.A.I.N. feels like a wonderfully restorative approach to getting through the rough patches. I’d love to know how you see self-compassion fitting in. As mentioned, I am eternally grateful for your initiative. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Robin, I feel like self compassion is a very important part of mindfulness. Vital really. As Jon Kabat-Zinn often reminds us, in other languages the word for ‘mindfulness’ is a bit more descriptive of the actuality of the practice. We don’t have a word like it in the english language so Jon made one up ‘heartfulness’

      Heartfulness says something about the attitudes of kindness and friendliness towards ourselves as we practice. Kindness and friendliness towards also what arises in our awareness. Self compassion softens the hard edges the minds tendency to be judgmental and creates a nourishing, restful, joyful atmosphere in which to practice. Wishing you presence and peace : )

  5. Thank you very much for this post.
    Actually, this R.A.I.N method reminded me a little bit of the “surfing the wave” method. Jon Kabat-Zinn explains it in one of his books and it is taught in many MBSR classes. The “Recognize what is happening” is like seeing the wave coming, “Allow life to be just as it is” is the person sitting there waiting for the wave to come, not fighting against it. “Investigate inner experience” and “Non-Identification” could be compared to the act of surfing the wave, not getting drowned by it. So it’s like surfing the thoughts: accepting that they are there, acknowledging them but not identifying with the thought itself.
    It’s very interesting to discover how other “meditation schools” or authors have similar methods and techniques.
    Thank you,
    Carolina – (flowingcarol)

  6. Very ɡood site you have here but I was curious about іf you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics
    discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part
    οf online community where I can get opinions from other knowledgeable рeople that share the
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  7. Susan D. Gorman, M.A., SEP says:

    Thank you for this helpful post. The acronym RAIN reminds me of the 3 A’s in AL-Anon, a 12-step spiritual program for families and friends of alcoholics. The three A’s are Awarwness, Acceptance, and Action. I like the fourth “N” because it encourages us to detach and to know that we are not our minds or our emotions. We are aware, present, caring human beings who feel and think. We have choices.

  8. This is an excellent, concise characterization of R.A.I.N. Thank you! Your thoughts helped me deal constructively with some strong emotions I was experiencing this morning. Kind regards from Zurich


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